Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Teresa James, WAF

"I soloed September 3, 1933, in 4 hours and 30 minutes. I swore never to fly again."

Pioneering pilot, Teresa James, was born on January 24, 1914, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and took flying lessons to surprise her brother. She soloed at age 19 and became the first female flight instructor to graduate from Buffalo Aeronautical Institute received her commercial transport license October 27, 1941, with over 600 hours.

She earned the money for her extra flying hours by flying as a stunt pilot at air shows around Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. "My specialty was doing a 26 turn spin two miles up and pull out at 1,000 feet." She flew
Airplane Stunting Exhibition for three years. As she said later in Jan Churchill's On Wings to War,
"Those were the days of undiluted heroics, but you were known; yet with all my flying time, I never believed I'd get to be a part of history."

She married George "Dink" Martin, one of her flight students, in 1941. Dink enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a flight instructor and bomber pilot.

From WASP Betty Turner's
"Out of the Blue and Into History," Teresa wrote: "...I received a telegram from General Arnold about a group of women pilots for domestic ferrying. I then had 2,254 flight hours.

I was sworn into the WAFS on October 6, 1942,. I was the first WAFS pilot to fly a military plane coast-to-coast across the United States. It was in a PT-19. I have told of my life adventures in the WAFS in the book
ON WINGS TO WAR by Jan Churchull. In early 1944 Dink was sent overseas. I received word that Dink's B-17 was shot down June 22, 1944.

After deactivation December 1944, I went back home to work in the flower shop. Hoping Dink was a POW, i received official notice that he had been missing in action since June, 1944. in 1984 in Joinville-le-Pont, a suburb of Paris, I talked to witnesses to Dink's crash. After 40 years i found out what happened to Dink.

In 1939, I joined the 99s, and in 1986 was honored by inclusion in the Forest of Friendship in Atchison, Kansas. I am a life member of the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot Association, the Grasshoppers (Women Pilots of Florida), and the silver Wings Association. I was awarded a Pancho Barnes in 1980. I donated my WAFS uniform to the National Air and Space Museum of The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, where it is on display."

This pioneering, one-of-a-kind aviator, took her final flight on July 27, 2008, passing away quietly in Lake Worth, Florida. She was 94. Her ashes were carried back to Pennsylvania where her family still owns and operates their flower shop.

Teresa's story has been told beautifully in Jan Churchill's "ON WINGS TO WAR"
Other links to more information on Teresa:

USAF Museum

The Ninety-Nines


The Originals by Sarah Rickman

written and submitted by Nancy Parrish

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WASP Margaret Ringenberg, 43-W-5

Gone West: Noted Aviatrix Margaret Ringenberg

Died In Her Sleep... At Oshkosh

by ANN Correspondent Dave Slosson

Another World War II flyer, and one of EAA's Timeless Voices, went west Monday... and from AirVenture, no less.

Margaret Ringenberg was a Womens Air Force Service Pilot in World War II, ferrying bombers, fighters, and transports overseas. She was in town to give a seminar on her experiences, and died in her sleep Monday morning.

Ringenberg announced the war's end in 1945 to Fort Wayne residents by dropping 56,000 leaflets proclaiming "Japan Surrenders!" from a plane over downtown streets. Both newspapers in the city were on strike, so a radio station hired her to make the historic "news drop." After the war, she was a flight instructor for many years, and became a cross-country air racer in 1957.

She continued to race, competing last month in the women-only Air Race Classis, flying from Bozeman, MT to Mansfield, MA, finishing third with her co-pilot, Carolyn Van Newkirk. Margaret is listed in Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," taking up an entire chapter. She gave Tom a flight lesson when he interviewed her. Brokaw said Monday he was heartbroken to hear of her passing. "Margaret was one of my favorites," he said.

Margaret never intended to be a pilot. She wanted to be a stewardess, or flight attendant as they're currently called. She wondered what would happen if the pilot needed help or became ill, so decided to do what she could to have some skills in case that happened. She quickly found she loved to fly, and another pilot was born. Roger Myers, Greater Fort Wayne Aviation Museum board member and WWII bombardier, worked closely with Margaret for many years. He said there were two rooms in her house that were floor-to-ceiling with trophies and ribbons she'd earned over the years. Yet Margaret was never one to brag, always passing herself off as another veteran who did what they could during the war. In July 2002, she was honored as one of Indiana's six Living Legends. Last summer, she was honored as a flying legend by the Gathering of the Eagles at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama.

She met her husband, Morris, during the war. They were married for 56 years before he passed away in 2003. They had two children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The couple lived in Leo, Indiana for many years.

Her daughter wrote a book about her mom, "Maggie Ray, World War II Air Force Pilot." Margaret wrote her own book in 1998 with Jane Roth titled, "Girls Can't Be Pilots."

When she spoke to a group of NASA employees a few years ago, they offered to let her try the Space Shuttle simulator. Her granddaughter, who accompanied her on the trip, said the employees said almost all pilots who were trained on it crashed a few times until they got the hang of it. Each time she tried it, Margaret landed perfectly.

I met Margaret only once, but talked to her many times via radio, pilot to controller. She was 87, and had been flying only with a safety pilot for the last several years. She was a true American hero, and just as down to earth as the land she and her husband farmed. It is so appropriate she passed away in Oshkosh. You're flying now, Margaret, and we'll see you on the other side.

Thanks to Joyce McCartney of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette for some of the facts in this story.

Her incredible legacy:
A visitation and memorial service will be held from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Grabill Missionary Church, 13637 State St., Grabill.
Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 5.
Arrangements by D.O. McComb & Sons Funeral Homes.
How I remember Margaret--as the little girl on the cover of her book, "Girls Can't Be Pilots." Even though she was in her 80's at the time, she had that same sparkle in her eyes when she talked about flying, and if you looked close, you could almost see those freckles.

What a legacy she leaves. Family, flying, faith...
What an honor it was to have known her.

More on Margaret as it is available.


Submitted by Nancy Parrish, Wings Across America

News Sentinel - Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Faith, family and flying

Tears, joy mix as kin, friends honor aviator

Becky Manley
The Journal Gazette
• The service for Margaret J. (Ray) Ringenberg will be at 10 a.m. today at Grabill Missionary Church, 13637 State St., with visitation one hour prior. Arrangements by D.O. McComb & Sons Pine Valley Park Funeral Home.

AUGUST 5, 2008

GRABILL – As family and friends grappled with the emotions spawned by the loss of legendary aviator Margaret J. Ringenberg, the tears often gave way to laughter as cherished memories were shared.

Family members agreed that Monday’s visitation for Ringenberg was a celebration of a life lived with determination, faith and no regrets.

Ringenberg, 87, died in her sleep July 28 while in Oshkosh, Wis., for an air show to give a presentation as a former member of the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs.

“I can’t think of a more fitting way for her to pass,” said Jon Wright, 33, Ringenberg’s grandson.

Granddaughter-in-law, Becky Wright, 32, said Ringenberg knew to appreciate life and its experiences – whether she was watching her great-grandson play on the monkey bars or she was flying around the world.

“So many people say live life to the fullest, and I think she realized what that meant.”

The Wrights laughed as they said they imagined when Ringenberg arrived at the Pearly Gates, she likely informed St. Peter a mistake had been made and pulled her BlackBerry out to tick off the obligations on her busy schedule.

That BlackBerry was the first thing Jon Wright said he asked for, and he carried it in his pocket while at Ringenberg’s visitation Monday, calling her a “gadget grandma.”

“The sadness is ours because we miss her,” Becky Wright said.

Grandson Josh Wright, 29, of San Antonio, said Ringenberg’s family got “so spoiled” by the frequent chances to ride with “the grandma that flies,” they would sometimes turn down flights.

Wright also confessed to the possibility he may not have waxed his grandmother’s plane as perfectly as she liked, a challenging task grandson Joe Wright, 31, learned in junior high.

“I’m certainly not a perfectionist, but I was for her,” Joe Wright said about the waxing work.

Ringenberg joined the WASPs in 1943 as a ferry pilot. After the WASPs disbanded, she became a flight instructor in 1945 and began racing in 1957.

Ringenberg announced the war’s end in 1945 to Fort Wayne residents by dropping 56,000 leaflets proclaiming “Japan Surrenders!” from a plane over downtown. Both newspapers in the city were on strike, so a radio station hired her to make the historic “news drop.”

According to her biography, Ringenberg took her first flight, from a farmer’s field, at age 7. In 1998, Tom Brokaw spent an entire chapter of his best-selling book “The Greatest Generation” on Ringenberg. She gave him a flying lesson when he interviewed her.

While so many people are familiar with Ringenberg’s flying legacy, Joe Wright said she also left an important family legacy.

Ringenberg, who told her loved ones that so many families are broken and separated, insisted the family get together for a meal every Sunday.

“She wanted us to stay together,” Joe Wright said.

Ringenberg was strong, stubborn and a woman of faith, Joe Wright said.

“She told me and she told our parents she prayed for us daily,” Joe Wright said.

Saying he believes in the power of prayer, Joe Wright said, “I just can’t imagine how our lives have been shaped (by her).”

It took no fewer than nine tables throughout the long hallway at Grabill Missionary Church and a video slideshow to share Ringenberg’s life, including her service, her racing career and her family.

Among those who attended Monday’s visitation was Dan Reed, 59, of Fort Wayne, who was taught by Ringenberg in the 1970s when he sought his commercial and instrument flight license.

While Ringenberg expected hard work from her students, Reed said she had a way of teaching – and correcting – that made him feel encouraged.

“She’d work you hard,” Reed said.

Visitors also included Susan Sears, 62, and Esther Wyandt, 74, both of the Indianapolis area and, like Ringenberg, members of The Ninety-Nines Inc. International Organization of Women Pilots.

Sears, who knew Ringenberg for about 15 years, said Ringenberg was an “accomplished pilot,” “personable,” and a “pioneer in flying.”

Both Sears and Wyandt agreed Ringenberg helped women who strived to be pilots.

“Certainly people like Margaret paved the road and made people understand women could fly.”

Halfway through Ringenberg’s evening visitation, more than 200 signatures filled the guest book’s pages.

Visitors filed passed an array of floral arrangements, including one with a card that read, “Your former student. Thanks for giving me my wings.”

Another former student, Gordon Liechty, 69, of Leo, was among the evening’s visitors.

Liechty said Ringenberg gave him lessons about 1960, and they would fly from her backyard.

Ringenberg was a “great lady” and pilot who knew her plane well, Liechty said.

“She did things out of the ordinary, things people said couldn’t be done, but that didn’t stop her.”

Farewell to a Legend

Ringenberg: Farewell to a legend
Margaret Ringenberg died in her sleep after an air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
of The News-Sentinel

Aviation legend Margaret Ringenberg of Leo-Cedarville was doing what she loved most shortly before her death late Sunday in Oshkosh, Wis. She was at the AirVenture Show, mentoring young women in an aviation program, “encouraging them to be all they could be, to not be afraid of becoming pilots. She was doing exactly what she wanted to do,” said Ringenberg's only daughter, Marsha J. Wright.

Ringenberg was 87.

From her first airplane ride at age 7, the girl with wings took to heart what she once said her father told her, “You can be anything you want to be,” and became one of the most honored female pilots in the country.

Tom Brokaw's book “The Greatest Generation” contains a chapter on Ringenberg, who began her aviation career in 1943 as a ferry pilot with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).

In 1945, after the group disbanded, she became a flight instructor, “although no one wanted to take lessons from a woman back then,” Wright said.

“Her determination. Her courage, courage that far outstrips mine, is what I'll remember,” Wright said.

On Sunday, Ringenberg had driven to Oshkosh to join other former WASP members at the air show, Wright said. When Ringenberg failed to show up for breakfast Monday, a member of the WASP group went to check on her and found she had died in her sleep.

“It is how she would have wanted it,” Wright said. “God had his fingerprints all over this.” Wright and all five of her children flew in races with Ringenberg. In 2002, Ringenberg and her granddaughter, Jaala Wright, flew to Houston, where Ringenberg spoke to astronauts at the Johnson Space Center.

As a pilot, Ringenberg logged more than 40,000 hours and raced in every Powder Puff Derby - a transcontinental women's air race - between 1957 and 1977, when it ended. She had also flown in every Air Race Classic since 1997, including the most recent just a month ago. Ringenberg and her teammate, Carolyn Van Newkirk, finished third among 30 teams, flying from Bozeman, Mont., to Mansfield, Mass.

In 1994, at age 72, she was the oldest entrant in the Round-the-World Air Race. In 2002, she was one of six people honored by the Indiana Historical Society as a Living Legend, and in March was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame during the Women in Aviation International Conference in San Diego. It was one of more than 150 awards she received as an aviator, author, speaker and leader for women everywhere.

A book about Ringenberg and other WASP members, “Maggie Ray, World War II Air Force Pilot,” written by Wright, was published in 2007. Before that, Ringenberg and Jane Roth wrote “Girls Can't Be Pilots: An Aerobiography.”

Perhaps her only regret, she once said, was not being the first senior in space.

“John Glenn beat me to it,” she said. “When I saw him at Bob Dole's 80th birthday and library dedication, I told him I had a bone to pick with him,” she told The News-Sentinel in March.

Although Ringenberg's name is almost synonymous with aviation locally, Wright said her mother's life was much more than flying. She was a Girl Scout leader, band mom and member of Grabill Missionary Church.

“She did a lot of speaking and not as much flying in these last years. There were insurance issues. The companies would say, ‘You want to fly in this race and you're how old?' ” In 1998, she spoke to 1,000 Air Force Academy graduates in Colorado Springs, Colo., and at the time of her death was a speaker for NASA's Distinguished Lecture series. “Because so many people knew her, I realize she belongs to the community,” Wright said.

Ringenberg's legacy is far-reaching in so many ways, said Marilyn Moran Townsend of CVC Communications in Fort Wayne, who, along with Ringenberg, was featured in a calendar book in 2000 about Indiana women in nontraditional fields.

“I'm so saddened. I feel like we've lost an important piece of greatness that so many people in the community and in Indiana had the opportunity to get to know,” said Moran Townsend. “She achieved wonderful things early in her life in so many nontraditional ways, and she continued on doing so throughout her life. She was such an inspiration.”

In addition to Wright, Ringenberg is survived by a son, Michael J. of Leo-Cedarville, four grandsons and one granddaughter. She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Morris J. Ringenberg, in 2003.

Final salute

Visitation for Margaret Ringenberg, who died late Sunday in Wisconsin at age 87, is 2-5 and 7-9 p.m. Monday and one hour before the funeral at 10 a.m. Aug. 5, Grabill Missionary Church, 13637 State St., Grabill.